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Delicious Crossroads Marinara Sauce

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Adjust Servings:
2 cans Canned Tomatoes 28 oz
3 tbsp Olive Oil Extra virgin for a stronger flavour
1 Onion yellow, medium, diced
1 Carrot big, finely grated
4 cloves Garlic minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
pinch Baking Soda
4-8 Basil leaves chopped
100g Butter optional

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Delicious Crossroads Marinara Sauce

Fresh, robust flavours of goodness.

  • 50m
  • Serves 6
  • Easy




A good marinara sauce is the foundation of the dish. Most people I know buy their marinara sauce off the shelf. I stopped doing that since I started making my own sauce almost 20 years ago. Really, once you have made your own marinara sauce or any other pasta sauce, but especially marinara sauce, you will not want to use the store bought ones ever again.

Not only is home made marinara sauce so easy to make (but of course not as easy as opening a bottle of store bought ones), it tastes so much better! I always find the store bought ones way too acidic and maybe it is in my mind, they don’t taste “fresh” and usually tastes very one dimensional. But when you make your own marinara sauce, you taste the olive oil, the garlic, the tomatoes, the tanginess, yet the sweetness, the umami… all the flavours melting in your mouth as one but yet you can still get a hint of it.

So on my last trip to USA, I got myself a cookbook by Crossroads because the dishes looks so amazing and delicious. It sounded vaguely familiar but with limited wifi access, I did not look it up then and happily bought the book as it was also on sale. When I flipped through it in detail, I realised that it was actually a vegan recipe book written by this famous guy, Tal Ronnen that founded the multiple award winning vegan restaurant, Crossroads in LA. He also cooked at Ellen DeGeneres’ (ELLEN) wedding and for Oprah Winfrey when she did her detox. But really, what caught my eye were the amazing and delicious looking recipes and ideas. Now I know I have good taste. Hahahaha….

I am vegetarian 15 days a year.  During the whole of Chinese New Year. So I really need some gratifyingly tasty dishes to cheer myself up while everyone else is stuffing their faces with CNY goodies. It got easier over the years as my menu expanded with experience covering a wide variety of cuisines from Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Italian, Japanese and even Korean.

So the first time I used his recipe, was to host a TV show for CNA featuring Dine Inn, which I just joined. And as it was to be filmed over CNY, I could only eat vegetarian and therefore offer vegetarian. I needed to cook something that is tasty and can taste good even though it had sat on the table for 2 hours (filming time), plus I wanted to convince more people that vegetarian need not be boring or unsatisfying. And luckily, the dish was a hit. Everyone was raving at how robust the flavours were and how they would not have realised this is vegetarian because it was so satisfying. I offer this dish on my Dine Inn site so if you want to give it a try, you can order it. Or you can try making it. I will probably share the recipe one day when I have the time. But that is such a long process that I guess it will just have to wait. In the meantime, there are other recipes you can find online and with this marinara sauce, It will taste great anyway.

So I looked through his lasagne recipe and decided that ok, this should work. I have always cooked a mean chicken lasagne. We make decent pasta (both original and sourdough versions)… and I have always made my own marinara sauce, so if his recipe for the sauce did not work out, I know how to adjust it. Only issue is that it is a lot of work. Especially since we make our pasta from scratch and we add sourdough starter to it both for flavour and because it also healthier for the gut blood sugar regulation. Especially since this is such a rich dish. I also amended his lasagne recipe a little but let’s discuss that in the lasagne post.

Anyway, I was really impressed with this marinara recipe and this is the one for me. I have never added carrots in my sauce and my onions were not as much. Thus I relied on sugar and wine to give that sweetness to my original sauce. This, I did not have to add sugar nor wine because the sweetness of the carrots and onions did the job. Plus yes, I tried making it with San Marzano tomatoes the first time because we finally found some while in USA. But then other times on we had to use locally sourced tomatoes and actually the recipe is so good, it is just as tasty, just maybe a little more acidic.

He credits this recipe to Scoty, the Executive Chef of Crossroads cz-lekarna.com. But I find it rather weird to title my post after Scoty like he is my friend…. so I decided to name it after the restaurant and give Scoty the credit here.

You can use fresh tomatoes for this but will need to blanch and de-skin them yourselves. I usually use canned tomatoes because the whole process of making a lasagne is tedious enough without having to even de-skin my own tomatoes. Plus canned tomatoes are ok, so long as you check the ingredient label to make sure that nothing other than citric acid is added in to stabilise it. Citric acid is found naturally in oranges and lemons so it is not some weird chemical stuff. But if you still don’t want to use that, go ahead and use fresh tomatoes.

The recipe calls for red pepper flakes. I use a little chilli flakes for just a hint of spice and and some paprika for some sweet smokiness. This part is optional and can be adjusted to your tastes. I was also surprised that a pinch of baking soda is added at the end. I looked up for the possible reason and it is basically to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. This is needed because as nature has it, some tomatoes are more acidic than others. So taste and add accordingly and while a pinch is good to balance out the acidity, too much will spoil the sauce by giving it a weird taste. So, just a pinch when necessary.

The recipe calls for butter and I feel this is optional. I do not remember if I added it the first time, I probably did. But I did not add it subsequently as I want to keep it healthier and you know what, It is still good. So again this is optional.

You will also need an immersion blender or food processor for this to puree the tomatoes a little. But if you do not have it, just use a masher, it works just as well. I also like to use a food processor for shredding the carrot. But again, if you do not have one, just do it manually. It is more tedious, but you get to enjoy a good, healthy sauce. But if you just find it too tedious, this is another recipe that I have been using that does not use carrots.

The sauce is thick and flavourful, but not heavy. It can be used by itself, or you can use it as a base for other stuff like puttanesca sauce or spicy tomato jam, etc. And you can use the sauces in lasagnes, pizzas, pastas, baked rice, soups, dips, you name it. Add some vegetable stock to it and voila, you have a tomato based soup. The possibilities are endless.

Halloween Lasagne topped with marinara sauce and basil cheese with olive spiders
Bread pizza with freshly baked sourdough bread, spread with spicy tomato jam, topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms and basil cheese or coriander.

Hope you enjoy this nutritious and tasty recipe. It is really a keeper.  Another robust, tomato-based dish I love is shahshouka. It is amazing with either pasta or bread. I am going to experiment with a vegetarian version soon.

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Heat the garlic, onions and carrots

Heat a medium sized pot over medium fire and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add garlic, onions and shredded carrots. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chilli flakes, then saute till soft.


Add tomatoes

Add in the tomatoes plus 1 can of water. stir to combine and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 40-45 minutes.


Blend the sauce

Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce such that the tomatoes are broken down but still chunky. Add salt and pepper to taste. If necessary, can put back on fire to cook off any excess liquids. If not, simply add in the basil, baking soda and butter.


Cool and store

Once cooled, store the sauce in an airtight jar. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.


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